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From Liberation to the end of the Junta (1944-1974)

A few days after the Germans had left Greece, the Greek Government arrived in the country; it was a government of national unity comprising ministers from the National Front (EAM) and headed by George Papandreou as prime minister. On the first Sunday after its arrival the government celebrated officially the liberation of the country by raising the Greek flag on the Acropolis; on Monday the prime minister made a speech at Syntagma square, from the balcony of the building in Karageorgi Servias Street, on which one can see today the commemorative inscription of the event.

The happiness of the first days was followed by peculiar events which announced that the country would not have a peaceful future. The organizations of the collaborators of the Germans were not persecuted at all; on the contrary, they were incorporated to the Greek army. At the same time, acts of violence took place against individuals ideologically and politically friendly to the National Front (EAM). The British task force in Athens along with the Greek troops and the groups of the collaborators of the Germans were facing the military forces of the partisans of ELAS; the situation was explosive, ready to blow up from one moment to another.

And that indeed was what happened; in December a series of events made Athens the field of a civil battle; for 45 days the adversaries fought hand to hand, which caused damages to the town but also victims among both soldiers and civilians. The cease-fire and the treaty that was signed between the government and the National Front is known in Greek history as “the Treaty of Varkiza”, as the negotiations took place at Varkiza, at Eastern Attica, in the estate of Kanellopoulos’ family. Although ELAS was disarmed following the terms, the treaty was not kept. The results of that are well known: a long civil war, persecutions of leftists and democratic people, exiles, executions, depict one of the darker pages in Greek history.
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Thus, during 1950s and 1960s Greece lived a period of economic development but also of tough political and social conditions. Any way, the life in Athens grew normal after the end of the civil war in 1949 and people began to enjoy peace, despite the political conflicts, the struggle for the expansion of civil rights and the militant strikes. The same period is characterized by a wave of urbanism and a fervent construction activity, which resulted in covering any free space in Athens with blocks of apartments and formed the actual face of the city.

The relatively normal economic, social and political life of Athens and of entire Greece was violently interrupted by the military dictatorship of 21st of April 1967, known in history of modern Greece as “the colonels’ junta”. Apart from the political and social impact, the junta was catastrophic for Athens. The problems in town planning of the past decades increased more during this period; as a result when the junta fell, Athens was a city in asphyxia, with bad road and railway networks, with an overgrown port and a small international airport within the urban tissue.

Several political events during the dictatorship had marked the every day life of Athens. Undoubtedly, the most important feature was the resistance of the people against the junta, a resistance led by various unlawful organizations, mainly of leftists. The opposition to the junta was manifested in various ways: one of the most remarkable actions was the attempt of the democrat Alecos Panagoulis to assassinate George Papadopoulos, the chief of the dictatorship, at Lagonissi, on his way home. Several bombings initiated by young centrists also took place in various places of Athens. But, certainly the most important and remarkable manifestation of resistance were the students’ protests and the revolt of 1973 in the Faculty of Law and in the Polytechnic School; this latter, in November 1973, became a revolt of the people of Athens from which the regime had risked to fall. The junta was “saved” only when it declared the martial law and broke up the students gathered in the Polytechnic School with the aid of a tank, a fact that resulted in several dead people. These facts led to a coup within the junta. The new government evened the ground for the coup against Makarios in Cyprus in July 1974, which had led to the Turkish invasion in the island. The Turkish invasion and the eventual war between Greece and Turkey resulted in the collapse of the junta. And on the 24 th of July 1974, Konstantinos Karamanlis was flying from Paris to Athens, to undertake the task to lead Greece to a democratic regime.
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